When it comes to clasping onto history via the medium of dining, London does pretty well for itself. You can ping back to the 1790s and devour game at Rules like a disgraced Whig, or feast Mrs Beaton-style at Victorian time capsules Sweetings, Quality Chop House or M Manze’s. If it’s 1920s opulence you’re after, then the Savoy Grill and J Sheekey will gladly provide a slinky backdrop of art deco elegance, while Edwardian splendour oozes out of the balustrades at The Ritz.
But what of the flashy dining establishments of the 1960s? Alas, an authentic, and still-edible slice of swinging London is harder to come by, but one bastion of the grooviest era is still admirably hanging on. Open since 1967, you’ll find Tiroler Hut down a rickety staircase on Westbourne Grove. Can’t see the sign? Then simply follow the sound of dinging cowbells and the smell of hot, liquid cheese. A fever dream of an Austrian restaurant, it’s Disneyland as penned by Hunter S Thompson, with a front bar populated by gently swaying local barflies, and beyond it a basement dining room that is best described as an Alpine-set ayahuasca trip. Snow-capped mountains adorn the walls, dirndl-clad waitresses sweep past red gingham curtains, and there’s more pine than the timber aisle of your nearest B&Q.
A fever dream of an Austrian restaurant, it’s Disneyland as penned by Hunter S Thompson
This is where our octogenarian host Josef holds court. A one-man band in a felt hat and full lederhosen, he greets every table as if they’re old friends – in fact, it’s obvious that some are. He works the small, low-ceilinged room like we’re in Las Vegas (or Blackpool at the very least), playing keyboards, sax, accordion and clarinet, whipping up diners in a frenzied singalong to ‘Do-Re-Mi’ before his infamous, and largely indescribable cowbell show. Josef is a lounge artiste like they don’t make anymore. Thanks to this Bavarian Sinatra, the hills of west London are well and truly alive with the sound of music.
Oh yeah, and there’s also food at Tiroler Hut, and plenty of booze. Stiegl Goldbräu lager came in halves, pints, steins and ginormous boots, with schnapps and Austrian wine also flowing. The menu was mercifully short – who has time to make complex decisions when we have the ‘Edelweiss’ harmonies to work out? – with käsespätzle (a kind of German macaroni and cheese), and schweinebraten pork roast among the limited mains. It does, however, feel obscene to order anything other than fondue here, so we do, and slurp down a no-frills pot of the stuff, after also necking a hot pretzel with a decent dollop of sweet mustard and chopped sausage platter, full of juicy, pop-in-the-mouth rounds of pork.
Dessert is as vintage as the decor, with perfectly adequate slabs of Viennese chocolate sachertorte and apple strudel. If you’re after high-end fine dining, The Tiroler Hut probably isn’t for you, but if you’re after a riotous night, there is nowhere better.
The vibe Camp as Christmas and highly retro entertainment in an Austrian-themed west London basement.
The food Bavarian basics, including fondue for two and all manner of wurst.
The drink Lager, schnapps and a small selection of Austrian and French wines.
Time Out tip Don’t arrive too early – the unmissable cowbell show takes place around 8.30pm and to miss it would be a Tyrolean tragedy.